What Is Consumer Fraud?

Post by: Eric Jones | Posted Date: April 15th, 2015 | Categories: Columbus Personal Injury Lawyer

Consumer fraud is a concept that encompasses what can generally be considered underhanded dealings. Businesses are expected to be honest and forthright toward consumers because that’s just good business. When businesses fail to meet this expectation, customers’ rights are protected in Ohio. The Consumer Sales Practice Act enforces the rules of fair play in consumer transactions by protecting individual consumers from unfair, deceptive and unconscionable sales practices.  

What Is a Consumer Transaction?  

A consumer transaction is when someone purchases goods or services. Buying something at a store is a clear example of this. Purchasing services, such as home repair services, is also a type of a consumer transaction. The range of business transactions that this statute covers is broader than just these examples. “Solicitation for purchase”, which is when someone actively seeks your business, and “Award by chance” are also covered by this statute. Telemarketers are a type of solicitation for purchase, as are door-to-door salesmen. The Ohio consumer protection statute also regulates the conduct of debt collectors and collection agencies.

Credit repair offers have been a hot topic in consumer fraud and consumer protection cases. Due to the recent economic downturn, many people have less than perfect credit, often occasioned by job loss or a medical issue. Unfortunately, some companies have tried to unjustly capitalize on this situation to the detriment of consumers, which is prohibited by the Ohio consumer protection statute.  

What Must Businesses Do to Comply with the Consumer Sales Practices Act?  

Honesty really is the best policy and a legal necessity for businesses in Ohio. This means more than just answering customers’ questions. This means standing by their products, honoring warranties and guarantees and disclosing the terms of the transaction to customers. Businesses shall not mislead customers or take advantage of a potential customer’s perceived naïveté or disability, especially when it impacts the customer’s ability to understand the terms of the transaction. This includes not selling a product or service that the customer cannot afford, which is an issue that received significant press coverage during the recent foreclosure crisis, or from which the customer will not benefit.

Terms, conditions, limitations, and exclusions should be disclosed upfront. When you see an advertisement that says “some conditions apply,” “subject to credit approval,” or uses similar language, this is often why. These disclaimers are a signal to inquire about the full terms before proceeding with the transaction.  

Bait and switch practices are likewise prohibited. An example of this is when something is advertised at a lower than expected price to bring people in but then the real costs of the goods or services offered are substantially higher. 

How Do You Recognize Consumer Fraud? 

Sometimes it’s a gut feeling that something just isn’t right, or something about the deal just smells fishy. If this occurs at the outset, just walk away. But oftentimes, this occurs after the transaction has begun and before completion, when walking away isn’t an option. For example, the hidden costs start coming to light or the cost of the services keeps going up after the project is already started. Sometimes, the fraud does not become apparent until after the fact. An example of this might be a used car being sold as new, or substandard parts being used in repairs.  

What Should You Do If You Suspect That You Have Been the Victim of Consumer Fraud?

Contact an experienced Ohio consumer fraud attorney to help you. Schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with Jones Law Group. We have broad expertise in consumer protection cases and have successfully represented individuals victimized by commercial fraud. We’ll review your case and help you determine the best course of action. Call (614) 545-9998 or contact us online to get in touch.

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